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Leo Varadkar congratulates Austria's new 'whizz-kid' leader

Sebastian Kurz, 31, is the world’s youngest leader in waiting.

kurz Sebastian Kurz Source: Matthias Schrader/AP/Press Association Images

LEO VARADKAR HAS congratulated Sebastian Kurz as exit polls show his People’s Party (OeVP) has won around 31.5% of the vote in Austria’s general election.

The Taoiseach tweeted his good wishes to Kurz, saying he was looking forward to working with him and “hopefully no longer being the youngest Prime Minister in European Union”.

Kurz, 31, is the world’s youngest leader in waiting. He’s been given the nicknames ‘whizz-kid’ and ‘messiah’ after revamping the conservative OeVP.

Varadkar, 38, became Taoiseach in June.

“Many people have placed great hopes in our movement,” Kurz told supporters in Vienna yesterday evening.

It’s time to establish a new political style … I accept this responsibility with great humility.

Kurz is expected to enter a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) of Heinz-Christian Strache.

Founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s, the FPOe almost won the presidency last year and topped opinion polls in the midst of Europe’s migrant and refugee crisis.

Kurz’s rise in popularity prompted Strache to call him an “imposter”.

However, Austrian media is reporting that both parties are already involved in behind-the-scene talks.

Immigration 

Kurz took over the OeVP in May and ended the decade-long coalition with the Social Democrats. Then he rebranded the OeVP and its black party colour as a turquoise “movement” tough on migrants and easy on taxes.

The strategy of “putting Austrians first” propelled the sluggish OeVP to pole position in opinion polls.

Immigration was a key issue in the run-up to the election. Kurz appealed to conservative and right-wing voters with promises to shut down migrant routes to Europe, cut benefits for all foreigners and keep the European Union (EU) out of national affairs.

The former law student has enjoyed a meteoric rise, becoming secretary of integration in 2011 and foreign minister two years later, aged just 27.

Some analysts warn that Kurz’s election will be an “earthquake” for the EU, despite his pro-European pledge.

© AFP 2017, with reporting by Órla Ryan

Read: Austria is set to elect this 31-year-old as its leader

Read: Politics in Austria is embracing Islamophobia as a shortcut to electoral gains

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